Drugs Used for Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity Found to Reduce Alcohol Cravings

Drugs Used for Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity Found to Reduce Alcohol Cravings


Researchers at Virginia Tech have discovered that drugs commonly prescribed for type 2 diabetes and obesity may also reduce cravings for alcohol. This groundbreaking finding has emerged from social media posts on Reddit, where users reported a noticeable decrease in their desire to consume alcohol when taking these particular medications.


Numerous Reddit threads, including titles such as “Did scientists accidentally invent an anti-addiction drug?” and “I don’t know if this is a side effect but… Mounjaro makes me drink less!!!!!”, highlighted users’ experiences of a changing relationship with alcohol after starting drug treatment for diabetes and obesity.


Virginia Tech researchers conducted an analysis of these posts, as well as a remote study involving individuals with obesity who were taking semaglutide and tirzepatide. The study, published in Scientific Reports on November 28, revealed that these drugs not only reduced alcohol cravings but also resulted in a decrease in alcohol consumption.


This discovery provides further evidence that these medications could be a promising development in the field of alcohol use disorder treatment. According to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 15.7 million Americans meet the criteria for this chronic brain disorder, which significantly contributes to global mortality. However, it remains one of the most undertreated conditions.


The study conducted by scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Behavioral Health Research Institute’s Addiction Recovery Research Center builds on existing research that demonstrates the effectiveness of these drugs in reducing alcohol consumption in animal models.


To gather the data, the researchers first analyzed over 68,000 Reddit posts from 2009 to 2023 that mentioned GLP-1 approved medications. Semaglutide belongs to the GLP-1 agonist class of drugs, which mimic the actions of hormones released after eating to reduce blood sugar and energy intake. They then narrowed down the data set to 33,609 posts from 14,595 unique users by eliminating irrelevant comments.


Upon examining alcohol-related discussions within these posts, the researchers found that 962 individuals made 1,580 alcohol-related posts. The majority of these posts (71.7%) discussed reduced cravings, decreased alcohol usage, and other negative effects associated with drinking.


In the second part of the study, the research team recruited 153 participants who self-reported having obesity from various social media platforms. These participants were divided into three groups: a control group, a group taking semaglutide, and a group using tirzepatide.


Participants using semaglutide or tirzepatide reported consuming significantly fewer drinks on average compared to those in the control group who were not on any medication for diabetes or weight loss. Additionally, the researchers observed a lower likelihood of binge drinking among participants in the medication groups.


The study also found that the stimulative and sedative effects of alcohol were reduced when individuals were taking these medications. Participants reported drinking less alcohol, experienced fewer alcohol-related effects, and had a decreased likelihood of binge drinking.


Although case studies and reports in the popular press had previously hinted at the unexpected side effect of these drugs in reducing addictive behaviors and alcohol cravings, this study provides the first published report on the use of tirzepatide, also known as Mounjaro, which received FDA approval in 2022 and is primarily used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and weight loss.


Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only approved three medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorder: disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate. However, these drugs have shown limited success, poor compliance rates, and are underprescribed.


The authors of the study suggest further randomized controlled trials to explore the therapeutic potential of GLP-1 agonists and GIP/GLP-1 combination drugs in the treatment of alcohol use disorder. It is worth noting that the study participants largely consisted of white female individuals, highlighting the need for more research to examine potential sex and race differences in response to these medications.


While the evidence supporting the use of these medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorder continues to grow, there is still much to learn about their underlying mechanisms. The researchers at Virginia Tech are committed to contributing to this ongoing effort.

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